Ones to Watch 2014: Alex Lakin

Alex Lakin

Why Watch Him: Come hell or high water, this guy keeps it together.
Age: 26

“Someone once emailed to ask if we could accommodate a large party on a Friday night at 7 p.m. Alex didn’t just email back to explain why we’re too busy to do that then, he responded with a five-paragraph essay,” Adam Tilford, owner of Mission Taco Joint, recalled about his general manager, Alex Lakin. “He goes beyond anything I could have asked for. This is a guy who will definitely have his own restaurant someday, and it’s gonna kick ass.”

Despite his age, Lakin has been around quite the impressive front-of-the-house block – Eclipse, Monarch and Salt – before arriving at Mission. Here, the master of tact tells us how to deliver quality service, come …

At one of the places I used to work, we were doing a large banquet, and we used a hot box full of sheet pans to keep trays of food warm. The bottom rack was a whole chicken or turkey, and the Sterno cans under it were steadily heating the bird until the fat hit its flashpoint, caught fire, and melted through the aluminum sheet pan it was sitting on. The whole thing went up in smoke. We grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out, but it ruined the whole hot box of food. We had to think on our toes and feed this large party in 10 to 15 minutes. That’s the kind of stuff I try to avoid, but it does happen. That’s part of the attraction of restaurant management – it’s never boring.

Last spring, when Mission was still a very new restaurant, we had a very bad storm and the tornado sirens went off. Twenty or 30 guests and a couple of staff went into the basement. While we hid out there, we kept serving the customers drinks and water. A couple of people even ordered a second margarita. Then it got worse. Storm-water began flooding the basement from the drain. A small lake began to grow, and it was situated between the customers and the stairs. We wound up using about 10 chairs to make a bridge, and they walked across them to get back upstairs. The staff even held some people’s hands while we walked through the water to keep them steady.

If you want to talk about room-service delivery in a hotel, you’ve got any number of crazy-ass things. I had a woman answer the door for room service wearing nothing but a T-shirt. A guy came around the corner wearing nothing but a wadded-up T-shirt he was holding in front of his crotch.

Did he have a tip in his other hand?
I don’t recall.